Thursday, April 30, 2015

Izzit Howzit Shame

The country of South Africa recognizes 11 official languages including English. When out and about we hear people speaking in other languages every day. The good news for Mr. Deep and me is that everyone that we have come into contact with so far has spoken English.

Even though English is spoken it has taken a while to be able to clearly understand people from South Africa when they speak. I think now I can understand 90% of what is said. Partially the challenge is the accents and partially the challenge is the unusual words and phrases used.

I want to share with you a few favourite (see what I did there) words and phrases heard regularly.

The letter z is called zed. Most people could probably live here for a year and not have to say zed. But I have a zed in my name so I have been trying to use it. When trying to set up bottled water service for our home over the phone I spelled my name. The woman on the phone said "why didn't you just say z?" I replied that I was new here and trying to speak appropriately. Now I am totally self conscious when saying zed.

Izzit is like saying “oh really.” It seems you can have a whole conversation with someone where you tell them things and they just reply izzit over and over. The funny thing about izzit is that it doesn’t always have to do with an it which Mr. Deep and I just couldn't get over for a while.

Statement: “it’s raining in Sunninghill.”
Reply: “Izzit?"

Statement: “I’m from New York”
Reply: “Izzit?”

Statement: “That woman is a doctor”
Reply: “Izzit?”

Statement: “My parents went to Australia last year”
Reply: “Izzit?”

One of the nicest phrases that I want to adopt and start saying is pleasure.  It’s pronounced “play sure” and it’s used instead of saying “you’re welcome or “no problem.” It sounds so classy.

Sometimes people will say "it's only a pleasure" which if possible sounds even kinder and more polite than pleasure. We went and had dinner at the home of one of Mr. Deep's co-workers last weekend. I sent an email to say thank you and the wife replied, "it's only a pleasure."

Howzit means what’s up or hi as in how is it? Mr. Deep can’t help but look at each other and smile when we hear howzit. Mr. Deep is now also greeting people with howzit. He and I also text (I mean SMS as they say here) each other during the day to ask "howzit?"

Mr. Deep told me about sorted and now I'm hearing it all the time. It is used in the case when an American might say "all set." Today I was in the hardware store and the clerk asked me if I was sorted. The t's are pronounced very strongly here so it sounds like, "ma'am are you sorTed?" A thing can also be sorted. If your dishwasher was broken and now it's been fixed it's been sorted.

And finally for today shame. It seems shame doesn't have to be referring to something that is a shame although it could be used if someone is commiserating with you. It's like the way southern people say "bless your heart." It means isn't that cute or you poor thing.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Bryanston Organic Market

I visited this market a few weeks ago but that day it was pouring rain and I didn't yet have a real kitchen. I returned last week on a sunny day. I love this market! The market is held on Thursdays and Saturdays at the Michael Mount Waldorf School. As per the website, "the focus of the market is on the good health and physical well being of the soil, plants, animals, humans and the planet alike, in a community environment that offers wholesome fun, food and artistic flair." Why is the phrase wholesome fun so funny? 

The market began way back in 1976 and all profits from the market benefit the school's infrastructure. A Waldorf school, I just learned, is a school based on the educational philosophy of Rudolf Steiner and you can learn more about him and this type of education here.

I look forward to returning regularly as the market offers lots of fresh produce as well as meat, eggs, crafts, clothing and more. I was most excited about the produce. It's not that I can't buy great produce in the grocery stores here, I can, but I think it's fun to buy it this way if possible. Also, I found turmeric root at the market and Mr. Deep says that is the stuff that will keep us alive.  Here are some pictures from the market. 

This is not produce...

I include this picture for my parents who live across the road from an alpaca farm in NY

People eating and listening to music

I post this picture so you can get an idea of the prices. The exchange rate is about 12 rand to one dollar so for example the carrot bunches cost less than $1.50
This is my haul. The things that look like vanilla beans on the lower left are purple beans. I bought a bag of them because I had never seen them before. The guy who sold them to me wrote down a recipe of how to make them. Kind of like mashed potato bean thing. I haven't tried it yet. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015


How do you feel about pest control?

I am not hugely concerned with or scared of bugs but I also don't like to see ants crawling around on my counter tops or in my shower. I think it's gross.

Since we moved into our new house we've had those tiny ants. I know from our time living in Florida that they are called sugar ants. They like water and come into the house to seek it out. 

Speaking of Florida, we lived there for most of the 90's. At one point we sort of had regular pest control service. I say sort of because the guy would come once a month on Saturday at 9:00 a.m. Mr. Deep and I were about 25 years old at the time and we were never awake on Saturday mornings. We were sleeping so soundly (I miss sleeping soundly like that) that we rarely heard the guy knock. So we had pest control but rarely were any chemicals sprayed in our house because the poor guy could never get in.

Now that I am older, a little smarter and waking up much earlier, I don't really like to have chemicals used in my home or on my lawn. When we lived in the Hudson Valley in New York we had the worst lawn on the street. It was full of weeds because we would not treat it with any chemicals. We kept it mowed but it was weeds that were mowed not grass. Actually there was one lawn worse than ours, we referred to the family (secretly) as the "Slobsons" because they rarely mowed their lawn at all. 

So today Combat Pest Control arrived and even though I wasn't thrilled with the chemical dousing, I was excited that the ants would soon be gone. I am sure at least one of you is thinking of some natural concoction that I could have whipped up in my kitchen to solve the ant problem. You are like, "oh you should have just mixed up a paste of lemon juice, walnut oil and baking soda. Ants hate that stuff." 

I got nervous when the technician put on a gas mask before treating our home. He didn't offer me a gas mask so I just sat there trying not to breathe while he did his work. Then, before he left he said he needed some soap so he could wash his hands! Now I'm sitting here with Mr. Deep in our coated in chemicals home just hoping we will live to see another day. Oh and in case you're wondering, I haven't seen one ant since the guy left. 

And while we are talking about pests, I am pretty sure that today I saw one of the guards in our neighborhood disposing of a snake. I was driving and I saw him bend down to pick something up off the street. Then I saw him carrying something long, skinny, and yellow with black head. He was holding it pinched between his two fingers and away from his body. I was too scared to ask him what it was. I think it was probably dead. So no ants in the house but likely deadly snakes out in the street!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

A Necessary Evil

Spend five minutes in South Africa and you will become acquainted with the infamous mini bus taxis. These taxis are omnipresent in the same way yellow cabs cover New York City streets. 

Part bus and part taxi, people hale them down like cabs but like buses as they have designated routes and are packed to the max with riders. 

So what's the story with the mini bus taxis? During apartheid, black people were evicted from their homes and forced to live in townships. Townships were generally built on the outskirts of major towns and cities leaving the cities for white people only. As recently as 2007, statistics showed that 55% of black adults still lived in townships. Add to this the statistic that 50% of South Africans don't own cars as even modest cars are very expensive here. On a side note, from my own very non scientific research and observation it seems like the 50% of people that do own cars own very expensive and fancy cars (Deep family excluded) but these are blog post topics for another day.  Anyway, if many people don't have cars, and if they live on the edge of the cities and major towns and if there is no public transportation people can use to get to to work (or to get anywhere) then this all adds up to the need for the mini bus taxis.

The mini bus taxis all look the same but supposedly have details written on the back explaining their routes. I was told that there is a whole hand gesture code that riders use to flag down mini bus taxis. Say a person stands on the side of the road and points his index finger up, that might mean he wants to go north. I'm not saying that is what it means but it's something like that. It appears that there are certain areas where people congregate and wait for a mini bus taxi but it also seems that the mini buses will stop anywhere they want to such as right in the middle of the road to drop off or pick up passengers.

When we were staying in Sunninghill and now here at home in the afternoon I hear a lot of car honking coming from the street outside of our neighborhood (here they call it hooting and you will see signs that say no hooting.) The hooting is the mini bus taxis letting the maids, gardeners and others working in the residential area know their transportation is nearby.

The mini bus taxis are a constant topic of complaint. The griping is not without merit as the taxis drive dangerously and don't follow the rules of the road. Taxis will cut you off, run red lights and stop signs, stop in the middle of moving traffic, pass you on the wrong side, drive on the shoulder or grass and more. They pretty much do whatever they want to. I read an article that said that mini bus taxis are exempt from the laws because they are so necessary to the economy. Kind of the way a fire truck can do whatever it needs to do to get to a fire quickly. I asked about this and was told that it's not true and that mini bus taxis are supposed to obey traffic laws but they don't. 

The mini bus taxis help explain the large number of pedestrians that I've mentioned before. These are people waiting for their taxi, walking from where the taxi dropped them off or walking to get a taxi. Also, it explains the hooting which at first I thought was odd in a quiet suburban neighborhood at 3:00 in the afternoon. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Walter Sisulu Botanical Garden

We are not huge botanical garden people. At least we never were before we got here. This past weekend we visited the Walter Sisulu Botanical Garden. I guess when you are exploring a new area, one that may have safety issues, if you like outside activities you have to stick to established parks, at least while you're figuring everything out.

This garden is located about 25 minutes from our new house. It's different and even nicer than the Johannesburg garden. This park had hiking trails and a very pretty waterfall. 

History lesson time. Walter Sisulu was a leader in the African National Congress (Mandela's crew) during the apartheid era. He was an anti-apartheid activist and leader and was imprisoned for 25 years. He served as Deputy President of South Africa from 1991-1994. 

I don't know if Walter ever got to see these beautiful gardens in all their splendor as he died in 2003.  I think he would be very honored to have such a stunning place named for him. 

This garden also has a restaurant. We brought our own food this time. 

They have sculptures of large bugs so you'll recognize the real ones when you see them!

We hiked all the way to the top. I love the skies around here!
A train that takes kids around the park

The deep man walks alone 
The jewel of the park is the waterfall

Getting creative with the photography while Mr. Deep scopes out a black eagle

Monday, April 13, 2015

Welcome Not Welcome

Our move into our new house went fairly smoothly. There were are a few things that were interesting and strange about it. First, the actual moving workers arrived separately from the truck that contained our furniture and boxes. This would normally not be a big deal but the truck (they called it a horse) that was to transport the container with all of our stuff in it didn't start and so they had to get a new horse and therefore the truck was very late in arriving. About six hours late.

The workers arrived at 10:00 a.m. which was the time that the truck was originally supposed to show up. So the workers were waiting around for hours and hours. At first, they waited in our driveway. I have noticed when workers here are waiting around, they have a tendency to lie down on the ground. It’s just a cultural thing I guess. You will see it a lot when gardeners are taking a lunch break they will sit or lie in the grass. Or while waiting for a bus, people will sit or lay on the ground. In fairness, there are no bus shelters or any benches or seats like we often have at bus stops in the U.S. So the guys were lying in our garage and driveway for a few hours just waiting.

Then the shuttle arrived, but still no truck with our belongings. The purpose of the shuttle was bring the items into our neighborhood where the large truck and container could not drive. Shuttle is kind of a euphemism because it was really just a pick up truck with a trailer attached to it.  Once the shuttle arrived the workers waited with it out in the street. The workers did not seem to be getting any kind of communication about when the truck would arrive so I (as head of household operations) gave them periodic updates. I also gave them lunch. I am not telling you this so you will think how great I am.  It actually goes back to an earlier post as I was advised not to tip the movers and I felt badly for them that they were waiting around all day. I am sure (well I hope) that they were being paid for their time but I don’t like to miss lunch (or any meal) so we bought them some food.

Once the items finally arrived it took five trips of loading the shuttle to get everything inside. When loaded, the shuttle looked very much like Sanford and Son if you remember that truck.

The shuttle license plate
The next day the movers returned while Mr. Deep was at work and they assembled our bed and other furniture that had been taken apart for transport across the ocean. Mr. Deep and I then spent four days unpacking. Luckily for me here in South Africa Easter is a four day holiday weekend so Mr. Deep was able to help me get everything done over the weekend.

Unpacking is hard work but I kind of like it since one of my hobbies is putting things away in an organized manner. Also, it was fun to see all of our things again after over two months. There were a few things where when I opened the box I wished I was not seeing again - thinking things like “oh you have got to be kidding me….why do we own so many hats?”

I came across this item and was kind of baffled by what to do with it.   

Normally, I would hang it on our front door. Oh and I know it’s kind of ugly but we own a few things that I love because they are ugly which I think makes them strangely attractive and kind of cool. Things like these.

Anyway, back to the point. It seemed odd to hang this on our front door when to even get to the front door you’d have to get through security at the main entrance and show ID to enter the neighborhood, then you’d have to get through an iron gate to get to the front door. I could hang it on the locked iron gate but that seems weird. Let’s face it...front doors in South Africa are just not very welcoming. They are hidden behind security, walls, gates and electric fences. I don’t even think we have a doorbell. So I put my ugly but lovable welcome sign in a drawer. Maybe someday I’ll have use for it again. 

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Thursday, April 9, 2015

Clear as Mud?

While you might think my greatest achievement during my short time in South Africa is driving without incident, I can promise you that it's actually even more impressive that I can understand one bit of the unfamiliar and confusing game of Cricket. 

A few weeks ago South Africa played in the Cricket World Cup quarter and semi finals. A lot of people here were really excited about this and so it seemed like as good of a time as any to try to understand the game. The South African team, Proteus, ended up losing to New Zealand in the semi finals, but if they had won it would have been the first time ever that South Africa made it to the final round. I watched several of the games and thanks to Mr. Deep, I would say I understood about 80-90% of it which is 100% more than I understood about the game two months ago and 100% more than I understand about Rugby, also a very popular sport.  Mr. Deep learned about Cricket from watching with his co-workers and they patiently explained it to him. 

There are a few things about cricket that are unusual and surprising. In no particular order.

1) You thought baseball games were long  
The quarter and semi-finals were taking place in Australia and New Zealand so the games would start at about 3:00 in the morning South Africa time. When we woke up at 6 a.m. we would put the games on the t.v. The game against New Zealand did not end until noon South Africa time! There was an hour and half rain delay but still. These games are long!

2) There is no switching back and forth between offense and defense 
One team bats first and they score until the other team either get ten outs (called wickets) or until they run out of overs (the allowed number of pitches.) So the second team to bat knows what score they need to beat to win and knows exactly the run rate of runs per over they need at any given time to win.

3) Once you're out you're really out
Meaning you can't bat anymore for the rest of the match. It's like a baseball out meets an NBA ejection. 

4) Dinner is served 
There is a drink break for hydration purposes and then there is also a dinner break. How civilized! 

5) Duckworth and Lewis
No, not a new comedy team. If there is a significant rain delay then Duckworth Lewis goes into effect. Duckworth and Lewis were two English statisticians who came up with some kind of formula which I can't begin to understand and I am not sure that anyone really understands how it is calculated. If there is a rain delay in order to end the game in a reasonable time a target winning score is created using this Duckworth Lewis formula. As per Wikipedia, a mathematical formulation designed to calculate the target score for the team batting second in a limited overs cricket match interrupted by weather or other circumstancesI can't even think of what an analogy would be in life. Maybe like a discount randomly determined by a sales clerk that you get if you buy a sweater that is slightly damaged? Imagine if that time at the Superbowl when the lights went out some type of Duckworth Lewis calculation was enacted? 

About Me

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Hello and thank you for taking an interest in my blog. This blog tells the story of some big life changes. First, my husband and I have just moved to Geneva, Switzerland for a few months following a few years of living in Johannesburg, South Africa. The two places could not be more different. I'm excited to share our adventures, challenges and insights with you! My thoughts and opinions are my own.